Sunday, March 7, 2010

Up up and away...with WINGS

Today was a day where we sought out and were confronted with cultural clashes. However, don't mistake "clashes" to be negative, as we actually found that rubbing elbows with the locals was not only entertaining, but also quite enjoyable.

The day started with a stroll to the Sunday market. Here, we were able to see many of the traditional objects (clothing, toys, jewelry, etc) that Guatemalans make and use. The majority of vendors employ a version of the following line: "No pay to look and touch." And so we found ourselves looking and touching, often with the Guatemalans encouragement to learn about their culture. The market also included local food products, such as the plethora of mangoes, limes, and papayas pictured here. One other thing that was included - but never advertised - was bartering. Guatemalans enjoy the art of bartering - and although it took some of us awhile to get the hang of it, most began to look for opportunities to engage in conversations beyond just the bartering.

This evening continued the cultural experiences of the morning. Sue Patterson, of WINGS, joined us - WINGS aims to improve the lives of Guatemalan men, women and children by providing health education and service referrals. Dinner was a typical Guatemalan meal of rice, guacamole, tortillas, and pepian; the latter can be likened to a spicy stew with vegetables and meat, which is then ladled over the rice. Sue then presented a history of Guatemala, addressing topics such as health care, poverty, education, government corruption, and health beliefs. We learned that only 2% of the national budget is allocated to health care. Additionally, given illiteracy rates, health care myths are rampant and provide yet another barrier to access. For example, many Guatemalans believe that receiving a cervical screening led to the development of cervical cancer.

The experiences of today really brought cultural differences to a forefront - and while we will not claim expertise in the Guatemalan culture, we will say that we at least have a better understanding of their joy in life and of their difficulties. Today was instrumental in setting the stage for the real purposes of our visit which begin tomorrow...

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